Volkswagen has supposedly created a device that generates electricity from the wasted heat created by an internal combustion engine. The device, known as a thermoelectric generator (TEG), relies on the reaction of two different metals as heat passes through, thereby generating electricity. According to VeeDub, its TEG can generate an impressive 600 Watts, which is about 30% of the electrical needs of a Golf Plus and enough to reduce fuel consumption by over 5%. Last year, BMW won awards with a similar system that was able to generate about 200 Watts of power.
When gasoline is burned in an automobile, only about a quarter of the potential energy is turned into forward motion. The rest is wasted as heat. Automakers are keen to capture back a portion of these losses, but there's still a long way to go before a TEG like this is practical. Regardless, it's a technology that has plenty of promise if it's adopted on a large scale.